Effects of an interdisciplinary approach to parental representation in child welfare

This study utilizes a quasi-experimental propensity score matching design to assess the causal impact on child welfare outcomes when parents facing an abuse or neglect case in the New York City Family Court were provided interdisciplinary law office representation as opposed to a standard panel attorney. The interdisciplinary law office approach includes social work staff and parent advocates for the parent, and salaried attorneys working in nonprofit organizations. Using administrative child welfare data, the study assesses the foster care and safety outcomes of 9582 families and their 18,288 children. The propensity score matched results do not indicate a preventive effect toward foster care entry nor any difference in children's likelihoods of experiencing a subsequent substantiated report of maltreatment. However, when children's parents received the interdisciplinary representation and those children did enter foster care, children spent 118 fewer days on average in foster care during the four years following the abuse or neglect case filing. Subsequent competing risk models show that children whose parents received the interdisciplinary law office model achieved overall permanency, reunification, and guardianship more quickly. These results provide evidence that interdisciplinary law office parental representation is an effective intervention to promote permanency for children in foster care.

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Trends in NYC Youth Employment

This brief discusses trends in youth employment and workforce development to set the context for efforts to improve economic outcomes for New York City (NYC) foster youth. Several common measures have moved in positive directions in recent years. The number and rate of youth disconnected from school and work has dropped as has the youth unemployment rate, while hourly wage rates have risen. These improvements mask some troubling trends showing youth participating in more part-time as opposed to full-time work and stagnant earnings. NYC has a robust set of youth workforce initiatives, including several targeted at foster youth. Workforce experts credit these programs for contributing to improvements, but the absence of greater gains among youth during the tightest labor market on record is cause for concern.

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Trends in New York City Education Outcomes

This brief focuses on trends among students in New York City’s (NYC) public schools to provide context for the efforts made to increase the educational advancement of NYC transition age youth in foster care. The high school graduation rate overall increased steadily over the past decade in NYC, consistent with NY State, and national trends. Additional markers of educational progress such as rates of attendance, dropping out, and college enrollment demonstrate significant improvements. Though NYC public school students have made significant progress overall, racial disparities remain.

The method used to calculate high school graduation rates for the general population is not applicable to foster youth, who often stay in foster care for short periods. As a result, NYC developed several alternate measures to track educational performance for this group over the past several years. Spurred in part by federal legislation, New York City initiated several new educational policies and services that impact foster youth. This brief touches on postsecondary outcomes such as college persistence and job readiness, which could be an additional area to explore in future briefs.

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Trends among New York City Children and their Implications for Child Welfare

This brief discusses some of the trends among New York City’s (NYC) children and families that may impact the future of child welfare services in NYC, including transition age youth in foster care. Most trends among NYC’s children and families show marked improvements in living conditions and child well-being over the last several years. In tandem with reforms at the NYC Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), these improvements likely contributed to the long-term declines in foster care entries and census. Some data points, such as the increase in children living in concentrated poverty, raise concerns that more children and families may experience child welfare interventions.

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Trends and Measurement in New York City Teen Reproductive Health

This brief focuses on teen pregnancy and births in New York City (NYC) to place the measures used in the Foster Youth Initiative in context. Consistent with national and statewide trends, the most widely used measures of teen pregnancy and birth rates show marked and sustained declines in NYC over the last ten years. Still, areas that have high rates of child maltreatment investigations have teen pregnancy and birth rates that can be twice as high as the citywide rate. This brief discusses trends in NYC, the potential impact on NYC’s foster care system, and a measure that may help track trends among NYC youth in foster care.

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New York City Child Welfare: The Challenges of a New Year

This first policy brief focuses on the state of child welfare in New York City in 2018 and draws upon several sources including media and advocacy reports; experience with the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS, the city’s child welfare agency), other city agencies, and contracted service providers; and attendance at the January 22, 2018 forum entitled Toward a 21st Child Welfare System. The memo begins with a short discussion of the system’s strengths and looming challenges followed by a description of some of the strategies ACS uses to grapple with challenges faced by transition age youth (TAY). The memo then describes the topics of future policy briefs.

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Innovations in NYC Health and Human Services Policy: Data Integration and Cross-Agency Collaboration

During the last eight years, the city launched three innovative policy initiatives that use information technology and administrative data to integrate HHS processes in an effort to strengthen cross-agency policy development, increase the quality and efficiency of service delivery, and improve the outcomes of HHS clients. The city established an interagency research team in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, developed an online procurement and management system for health and human service agencies, and systems to coordinate the delivery of services. Significant progress has been made in moving the city closer to a modernized service system that integrates information across agencies, uses data to drive policy more effectively, makes informed decisions, and measures the outcomes of these services consistently and frequently.

This brief first outlines some of the problems with fragmentation that the policy initiatives aimed at addressing. Next, it discusses the challenges these efforts have faced and the strategies used to tackle them. And finally, it looks ahead at lessons learned and forthcoming issues that will need attention. To produce this brief, the authors reviewed documents provided by the Mayor’s Office, interviewed key government and provider staff, and drew on their own professional experiences designing and evaluating health and human services and programs.

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Innovations in NYC Health and Human Services Policy: Child Welfare Policy

This policy brief focuses on the child welfare reforms implemented in New York City from 2002 and 2013 that many believe contributed to the decline in the number of children in foster care. Many of these reforms were triggered by the tragic death of seven-year-old Nixzmary Brown at the hands of her parents, despite several previous reports of maltreatment, in 2006. It also identifies challenges that the city is likely to encounter in the future in its efforts to sustain and expand these reforms.

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Designing Policy to Serve Children with Special Medical Needs in Child Welfare: Lessons from New York City

Despite the heightened vulnerability of children with special medical needs (CSMN), few child welfare systems have explicit policies, training, or case management procedures designed to ensure their identification and monitor their safety. This study highlights an innovative approach in New York City that aims to enhance staff’s ability to work more effectively with CSMN families. The results of these efforts are compelling, and include targeted training of child protective staff, the development of a comprehensive policy for working with CSMN families, and practice changes designed to ensure staff access to medical expertise. Drawing on interviews and focus groups with staff and experts in the field of CSMN, the study describes the challenges that all child welfare agencies face in their efforts to serve CSMN, and provides recommendations for how agencies can design viable policies to address those challenges.

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Manage by Data Evaluation Report

Despite the potential for child welfare agencies to use data to improve outcomes for children and families, the practice is uncommon outside of central offices. This state of affairs exists for many reasons. Child welfare executives make tough choices between investing in building staff capacity and meeting the immediate needs of children and families. Standard child welfare training spends little if any time discussing how to use data to manage operations. As in many other types of organizations, data analysis and interpretation skills among staff are often limited. Though child welfare agencies have more data today than ever before, data quality remains an issue in many systems. Finally, agencies have occasionally used data to advance public relations goals or to punish poor performance, fueling suspicion of data driven management strategies.

Manage by Data, an initiative of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (NJDCF) funded by the Northeast and Caribbean Implementation Center (NCIC), sought to address this gap as part of NJDCF’s efforts to infuse data-driven decision making throughout the organization. Manage by Data aimed to build the capacity of mid-level staff to use data to manage toward improved outcomes: to diagnose practice issues, to develop solutions, and to track and adjust those solutions as they are implemented.

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